Sunday, June 29, 2008


I’m not very good at setting goals and making them happen. That probably sounds odd coming from a PhD student, but I see that as my job – or at least a means to a job. But goals don’t usually work for me. It’s not that I’m not driven; it’s just that life usually intervenes and makes the goals obsolete. However, ten years ago I set a goal, and a diligently worked at achieving it. When I first started I had no idea it would take as long as it has; it seemed like a goal that was easily achievable.

As someone who has always been amazed by the Oscars, I settled into the bed of my dorm room to watch the 70th anniversary of the Oscars. Ten years later and ten years of Oscar celebrations later, it’s still the greatest telecast the Academy has ever put on. It highlighted the classics and brought on stage every living actor/actress who had won best leading and supporting role Oscars. It was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to “Old Hollywood.” It was magical for me. I decided that night that when summer came I would take home my TV and VCR (yes, VCR) to spend the break watching old movies. At some point between February and the end of the semester, I happened upon the AFI’s list of 100 greatest movies of all time. I knew it was the perfect guide to my education in classic film. I started from scratch ignoring the fact that there were about 15-20 of the movies that I’d already seen. They would have to be re-watched to count.

Over the past ten years the journey of reaching my goal has been amazing. I remember walking downstairs to the kitchen of my Momma’s house after watching Casablanca for the first time. I was still numb from the experience. Jeff was down there watching TV and was busting at the seams to know my reaction. There wasn’t much of one. I just watched the greatest movie I’d ever seen, and I was simply in awe. I stayed in awe for several days. My reaction to Citizen Kane (which tops the list) wasn’t so great. I remember cutting off the TV, sitting there in silence for a moment, then saying, “Wow! Casablanca was ROBBED!” When I watched Sunset Boulevard I loved the scenes where Joe and Betty are on the studio set writing after hours. As someone who had for years dreamed of being a screenwriter, these scenes were fascinating. A few years later when I was in California and walking, late at night, on the sets of Brooks Institute, I felt a deja vous that took me back to the movie. I actually said out loud, "I feel like I'm in Sunset Boulevard;" it was the closest my life will ever come to converging with Old Hollywood, and it was amazing! The most recent great moment came last summer while watching Giant. When it was over I wanted to talk to somebody who had seen it. There was so much commentary to be made, but no one had even heard of it, let alone seen it.

As of now, I have about a dozen movies to go.* And, as I said, life has a way of screwing up my goals. Tonight after hearing a movie reference on Numb3rs I couldn’t remember which movie it was. I decided to consult my list. I recently bought a new hard drive and transferred all of my documents to it. My computer was hooked up to my TV and not the hard drive, so I had to consult the internet for the list. What I found was the tenth anniversary of the list. It first blew my mind that it’s been TEN years since I started this pursuit. Then I realized what I had was an updated 10th Anniversary list. Several new ones were added while some (most of which I have seen) were removed. After throwing up my hands in resignation, I decided to go all out with it. I figured I’m in it this far…why not? I’ll watch all the movies on both lists – making my list of 100 several more. I was surprised by the changes in rankings. The Godfather moved ahead of Casablanca while Citizen Kane remained atop the list. On the Waterfront was shamefully taken out of the top ten while Raging Bull jumped 20 spaces into the top 10. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Brando over Deneiro any day of the week – especially On the Waterfront Brando (sigh!).
So, while most of my goals don’t come to fruition – actually because most of my goals don’t come to fruition, I’m sticking with this one. I’m hoping to have the list (both versions) finished by the time I finish school. I started the list my freshman year, it seems appropriate for the goal – my classic film education – to end with my formal education. But if I don’t finish by May (the list…I’m finishing the formal education or I’m going to go insane), I’ll finish it next year. But, rest assured, this goal will be met.

*And before you say, “What the crap is taking you so long?!” remember that in that time I’ve gotten 2 and 4/5 degrees. I’ve also kept up with the newest movies, including seeing all Oscar nominated films. Also, the fact that I pay more in rent than I make a month puts a serious cramp on my Blockbuster budget. I’ve viewed every one Butch has at the Video Shop on both DVD and VHS. Many of the movies are four hours+, and several are silent. How many silent movies have you watched in the last 10 years? Some of the silent ones are amazing, but there are some that will put you to sleep. Trust me, this has been a bigger feat than you would think.

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